Ljubljana related

17 Sep 2019, 18:01 PM

Numerous outlets are carrying a report from the Associated Press about armed individuals – carrying knives – now patrolling Slovenia’s border with Croatia. These are part of Andrej Šiško’s Štajerska varda (“Home Guard”), the anti-migrant movement led by the former football hooligan, presidential candidate and recent prison inmate. Šiško is quoted as saying his goal is “to train people to defend their country and help the military and police at a time of massive migrations from the African and Asian states, mostly Muslims.”

One member of the group is Blaž Židar, a “47-year-old former Slovenian army soldier, dressed in camouflage trousers with a long knife hanging from his belt” who  goes on daily patrols near his village of Radovica. The story quotes him as saying “I would prefer to enjoy my retirement peacefully, but security reasons are preventing this.” He goes on to say that his six children often join him on patrol, along with his wife, “because they have to learn how to protect their nation from intruders.”

Related: 1 in 8 Slovenians is an immigrant

The reporter, Dušan Stojanović, goes on to interview Miha Kovač, a Slovenian political analyst and professor at the University of Ljubljana, who describes such anti-migrant groups as made up of “guys with big beer bellies who don’t have much of an education, who didn’t have much of a career, who don’t know what to do with themselves in the contemporary world. They find their meaning in this kind of movement and this kind of hatred toward migrants.”

While Kovač doesn’t see the movement as an immediate danger, he says the problem would get worse if Slovenia had significant numbers of immigrants, from 20-50,000.

Meanwhile, the story claims the authorities are happy to turn a blind eye to the patrols, as long as they stay within the law. As France Bozicnik, the head of criminal police at a police station near the border, states: “People call us on the phone every day and give us information about suspicious vehicles and suspicious persons, and we sincerely thank them for this information.”

You can see the full story here, while all our stories on Andrej Šiško are here

 

08 Aug 2019, 12:45 PM

STA, 7 August 2019 - The government decided on Wednesday to extend the deployment of auxiliary police to help the regular force cope with a spike in illegal migration on the Schengen border with Croatia and with other duties.

In line with today's decision, auxiliary police will be deployed until the end of the year to help patrol the border and stand in for absent regular police officers.

Under the valid legislation, auxiliary police may be called in for up to 30 days in a calendar year.

Only about 70% of police force jobs are filled on average, while illegal migration is on the rise, the government said.

It also noted a deterioration in road safety and the engagement of larger numbers of police officers in providing the security at a number of upcoming high-risk events such as a meeting of the NATO Military Committee, and the VIP Forum 2019 to be held in Ljubljana in September.

Security challenges will be stepped up later on in the year, so there is reason to expect an increased scope of duties in various areas of police work.

This is why most of the auxiliary police have already been engaged to help secure the border or stand in for regular police officers providing the security at high-risk events.

Some 460 auxiliary police have already been called in this year and they have already completed about a third of the 30 day-quota on average.

All our stories on the borders are here

16 Jul 2019, 11:25 AM

STA, 15 July 2019 - The parliamentary Home Policy Committee discussed joint Slovenian-Italian border police patrols at an emergency session on Monday with the opposition arguing that these were misguided and could give an excuse to Italy to carry out its threat and put up a border fence.

Jernej Vrtovec, the deputy for opposition New Slovenia (NSi), which called the session, labelled joint border patrols as a mistake with long-term consequences.

He argued that in this way Slovenia would give Italy an excuse to consider other, stiffer measures to control migration, including erecting a fence on the most exposed sections of the border.

"Italy is a sovereign country, it can build, but this is not in the European spirit. Slovenia must send a clear message to Italy that such surveillance would seriously impact on people's lives on the border," he said.

Concerns about Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini's threat to erect a fence and reinstate police checks on the border with Slovenia were also raised by the mayors of border communities of Nova Gorica and Renče-Vogrsko, Klemen Miklavič and Tarik Žigon.

However, Interior Minister Boštjan Poklukar rushed to assure everyone present that joint patrols were not reinstating border controls, saying that most citizens would not even notice them.

"Joint patrols send out a signal that borders are being efficiently secured and make migration routes towards the west less attractive," said the minister.

Foreign Minister Miro Cerar, who is in Brussels today, labelled the claims of the opposition MPs as misleading and said that this measure was a step to prevent Italy from introducing border checks.

Slovenia cooperates with police forces of all neighbouring countries and continues to conduct joint border patrols with Croatia and Hungary. Italy maintains such patrols with its other neighbours as well.

The initiative for the joint border patrols was made by Italy in late April and four joint patrols became operational on 1 July.

They will exercise surveillance in the shared security space during night-time for three months in a bid to prevent cross-border crime and illegal migration.

Like the minister, Police Commissioner Tatjana Bobnar underscored that the joint patrols were not conducting border checks.

Most coalition deputies argued that joint patrols were an effective way to provide security with Tina Heferle from the Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) saying they could prevent erection of border obstacles.

Gregor Perič, an MP for the Modern Centre Party (SMC), maintained that Salvini could find another reason to put up a border fence, rather than a potential failure of joint patrols.

However, Maša Kociper from the coalition Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) does not favour joint patrols.

Vrtovec and Branko Grims from the opposition Democratic Party (SDS) argued that joint patrols made no sense because it was not in Slovenia's interest to stop migrants who want to enter Italy.

Moreover, Vrtovec said that joint patrols were Slovenia's admission that it was not coping with the situation on its south border.

The NSi believes that measures should be taken to step up protection of the Schengen border, which would render joint patrols superfluous, an idea also supported by the SDS and National Party (SNS).

Minister Poklukar argued that Slovenia already exercised effective control of the Schengen border, something that he said was confirmed by Frontex and Europol in their assessments, as well as by the fact that Italy returned a mere 169 migrants to Slovenia this year.

The border with Croatia is being secured by various police units, backed up by troops, drones and helicopters. More fence has been commissioned as well and extra budget funds made available.

The committee failed to endorse the NSi's proposals to call on the government to take all measure needed to effectively secure the border with Croatia, and to take steps to restrict Slovenia's asylum law.

12 Jul 2019, 12:28 PM

STA, 11 July 219 - The Public Administration Ministry has laid the groundwork for the erection of another 40 kilometres of border fence. It would not reveal, however, where the fence will be placed.

The new fence will be supplied and set up by the Serbian company Legi-SGS for EUR 4.8 million.

The fence alone will cost EUR 4.56 million, and the pillars, fittings and installation another EUR 273,000, shows the result of an open call released on Wednesday.

The ministry looked for the best bidder with two calls for applications, and the Belgrade-based Legi-SGS was picked as the best bidder in both.

The ministry would not reveal where the border fence will be placed. It says this is confidential.

It did say, however, that additional fence would be erected in places where this is required to prevent illegal migration and protect locals and their assets. In some places, the new fence is needed because the old one is damaged.

The specific decisions on when, where and how much fence is needed are made based on the proposal of the Slovenian police, the ministry said.

08 Jul 2019, 17:24 PM

STA, 8 July 2019 - Prime Minister Marjan Šarec said on Monday that security on Slovenia's southern border would be beefed up, including with new equipment such as drones, after meeting with Ilirska Bistrica officials and civil society representatives to discuss the situation on the border with Croatia.

Šarec, visiting the south-western town along with Interior Minister Boštjan Poklukar and Police Commissioner Tatjana Bobnar, said that he understood locals' feelings of unease about the situation.

Ilirska Bistrica Mayor Emil Rojc pointed out that the number of illegal border crossings had doubled since Poklukar's first visit to the area.

"We've never said there was no migration issue," said the prime minister, adding that the need for strengthening border controls had been acknowledged.

Šarec announced the expected arrival of additional soldiers to the area as well as the deployment of new police equipment, including border patrol drones, and expansion of the border fence.

However, Šarec also said that Slovenia's border patrol had been effective in meeting set expectations and that "we cannot settle for various forms of fear-mongering, which are sometimes politically-motivated as well".

Šarec will also visit the Kostel and Črnomlje municipalities later today.

05 Jul 2019, 18:36 PM

STA, 5 July 2019 - While protests are being held on Friday in the Slovenian-Italian border area against the planned border control measures, Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini spoke on the phone with his Slovenian counterpart Boštjan Poklukar to discuss migration and enhancing cooperation in this field.

Poklukar and Salvini, who visited Trieste today for a port investment contract signing and to discuss border protection with Friuli Venezia Giulia President Massimiliano Fedriga, welcomed the start of Slovenian-Italian police patrols on the border.

According to the press release from the Slovenian Interior Ministry, Poklukar noted that it was not the first time Slovenia responded to Italian proposals for joint operations.

The Slovenian minister pointed to the assistance by the Slovenian Armed Forces in the maritime operation Mare Nostrum with the Triglav patrol boat in 2013 and projects to transfer persons in need of international protection from Italy to Slovenia.

The Slovenian and Italian police forces launched joint border patrols on 1 July as a response to the increase in illegal migration. The measure is expected to be in force until the end of September.

The Slovenian Interior Ministry told the STA today that the initiative for the mixed patrols had come from the Italian police on 29 April. The Slovenian police agreed with the proposal and Poklukar presented it to the government.

Subsequently, Foreign Minister Miro Cerar presented it to his Italian counterpart Enzo Moavero Milanesi and both countries agreed to implement it.

The two countries' police commissioners discussed the planned cooperation in more detail at the sidelines of a conference of police commissioners in Rome, the ministry said.

Salvini reiterated yesterday that if the border patrols failed to serve the purpose, Italy would erect physical barriers on the border with Slovenia. "We will make the border with Slovenia impenetrable with all available means."

Poklukar stressed that Slovenia was protecting its border with Croatia effectively and that the situation was under control. He said that special attention should be paid to the entire Western Balkan migration route and take appropriate measures.

The Italian and Slovenian interior ministers agreed that they would meet in person soon to talk about the possibilities of further bilateral cooperation as well as cooperation with the countries in the region.

According to the Austrian press agency APA, Salvini also talked today about measures to beef up the control of the Balkan route with Croatian Interior Minister Davor Božinović.

The Italian press agency ANSA reported that Salvini said in Trieste today that "joint patrols by Italy, Slovenia and Croatia are something we are establishing, and we will see what the results will be".

The police forces of the three countries are expected to also enhance cooperation in fighting trafficking of illegal migrants.

Asked about the joint Slovenian-Italian-Croatian patrols, the Slovenian Interior Ministry said it could not go into detail at this point.

Several protests are meanwhile being held or are to be held in the area on both sides of the border and on border crossings to express opposition to the idea and to call for open borders.

Some 50 people have gathered in the main square in Trieste to protest against Salvini's policy of closure of Italian sea ports for migrants. People are also protesting in other parts of Trieste as the minister is visiting the city.

Slovenian politicians mostly against proposed border fence

STA, 5 July 2019 - Slovenian parliamentary parties and MEPs are critical of Italy's announcement it could set up "physical barriers" on the border with Slovenia if Slovenian-Italian border police patrols, introduced on 1 July, do not result in fewer illegal migrants. The patrols, on the other hand, continue to divide Slovenian politics.

Current developments in relations with Italy are "a total disaster" and proof that "our government is impotent security- and development-wise", opposition Democrat (SDS) MP Branko Grims told the press on Friday.

He believes the Bosnian-Croatian border should be properly protected, while Slovenia should properly protect its part of the Schengen border - its southern border with Croatia.

If that border was sealed, then Austria's and Italy's moves would be superfluous, said Grims, who believes the Slovenian police and the army, if it was given adequate powers, would have no problem protecting Slovenia's southern border.

The SDS's MEP Romana Tomc (EPP) meanwhile believes the announced fence on the border with Italy "presents a threat that Slovenia could become a migration pocket, which would undoubtedly worsen our security and seriously affect our economy".

The coalition Modern Centre Party (SMC) believes a fence on the border inside the Schengen zone would be "unacceptable and un-European", and statistics do not corroborate it. What the EU needs is an effective supervision of its external borders.

The SMC believes the joint patrols are meant to build trust, with Prime Minister Marjan Šarec's LMŠ noting they were about preventing the smuggling of illegal migrants and fighting against smugglers.

Meanwhile, both MEPs from the ruling LMŠ believe Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini's announcement of a fence was meant foremost to appease Italian voters.

"Physical barriers in the Schengen area are unacceptable, they would be a major step backwards and a major attack on the EU's basic values," wrote MEPs Irena Joveva and Klemen Grošelj (Renew Europe).

If the Italian government keeps insisting on the fence, Joveva and Grošelj intend to bring the issue up in the European Parliament, but certainly at their political grouping's meeting with Ursula von der Leyen, the candidate for the nee European Parliament president.

The same would be done by MEPs Ljudmila Novak (EPP/New Slovenia (NSi)) and Tanja Fajon (S&D/Social Democrats (SD)).

Fajon urged Slovenia's authorities to do all in their power for solidarity to re-emerge in Europe and for a common migration and asylum policy be formed.

Novak expects the Slovenian government to "immediately condemn such announcements" and do all in its power to stop illegal migrations on the border with Croatia.

She said the mixed patrols on the Slovenian-Italian border would be no problem had they not been fuelled by a rise in illegal migrations on the Croatian border.

The NSi, convinced the patrols are a mistake, demanded yesterday a session of the parliamentary foreign policy and interior policy committees to discuss them.

Its MP Jernej Vrtovec said never again wanted the Slovenians living on both sides of the border, which is a single economic and cultural area, to be divided with a wall or even a wire.

The trend of erecting barriers should worry the entire EU, said MP Matjaž Nemec of the coalition SD, as a fence on the Slovenian-Italian border would be a measure disproportionate with illegal crossings of the border.

Nemec also believes the dialogue between the Slovenian and Italian interior ministers, who spoke on the phone today, was no longer constructive.

He thus called on Prime Minister Marjan Šarec to start dialogue with the Italian prime minister.

Just like the SDS, Nemec believes the focus should be on the Croatian-Bosnian border as the outer EU border.

Saying the fence was no answer to the migrant issue, opposition Left MP Primož Siter said the rhetoric of Slovenia and Italy's right-wingers was the same.

"The only difference is that the Slovenian right has already got its wire [on the border with Croatia], while the Italian right is now calling for it."

Noting the EU lacked a common approach to illegal migrations, which forced each country to deal with them on its own, the coalition Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) said Italy was dealing with them in line with its nationalist policy.

However, DeSUS also said the Slovenian Interior Ministry and the Slovenian police were trying to relativise the issue of illegal migrations.

The coalition Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) would rather boost the control of Slovenia's border with Croatia, where Italy and Austria could help in.

"The mixed police patrols on our western border are an un-European move, just as is Austria's border control on the northern border," the SAB told the STA.

The opposition National Party (SNS) believes the mixed patrols are nonsense.

Its leader Zmago Jelinčič criticised Foreign Minister Mira Cerar for having come up with the idea, wondering whether he tried to Italy's support for his bid to become a European commissioner.

Just like the SAB, Jelinčič believes Slovenia should have "double patrols" on the border with Croatia, which could also be mixed.

While MEP Fajon believes "there is absolutely no serious need for patrols on the border between Slovenia and Italy", MEP France Bogovič (EPP/SLS) welcomed them, but noted Slovenia should do more to protect its Schengen border with Croatia.

24 Jun 2019, 09:22 AM

STA, 23 June 2019 - Slovenia and Italy will launch joint mixed border patrols on 1 July, Italy's Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said on Saturday, according to news reports. Slovenia's Foreign Ministry told Radio Slovenia on Sunday that an implementation agreement would be signed in the coming week and confirmed the date of the launch.

After the Slovenian police told the STA that the countries are yet to sign the implementation agreement, the Foreign Ministry said that the document would be signed in the coming week. It did not say who would sign it, however, Prime Minister Marjan Šarec is due in the Vatican on Thursday.

The patrols are to be the same as those patrolling the border between Italy and France, according to a report by the Austrian press agency APA. It adds that so far nearly 800 illegal migrants have been detected entering Italy from Slovenia this year.

The joint patrols were proposed by Slovenia's Foreign Minister Miro Cerar. At the same time, he underlined that internal border controls in the Schengen zone were unacceptable to Slovenia. The issues of security and migrations must be addressed together so as to avoid border controls, he said.

25 May 2019, 09:40 AM

Mladina: Voters Should Reject Neo-Fascism on Sunday

STA, 24 May 2019 - Taking a look at the state of things in Europe, the left-wing Mladina says on Friday European nations are in for a tough task at this year's EU elections, urging them to vote for parties which could prevent a rise in neo-fascism.

The weekly says the European political class has made compromises in the manner of British PM Neville Chamberlain and has let happen all that a united Europe should have prevented.

All those who believed with all their heart in the European project as a post-WWII safety mechanism against fascism are angry with this kind of Europe.

Slovenian voters will have some hard choices to make on Sunday, also because parties have come up with many rather unconvincing candidates.

Judging by opinion polls, only three parties among the normal Slovenian political parties - those which reject both populism and neo-fascism - have a realistic chance of getting MEPs: the coalition Social Democrats (SD) and the Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) and the opposition Left.

Translated into political groups in the European Parliament, this means the Socialist and Democrats, ALDE and European United Left, says editor-in-chief Grega Repovž.

In principle, these are the parties, alongside the European Greens, which advocate the foundations of Europe and democracy and represent a bulwark against rising neo-fascism.

The stronger these groups in the European Parliament, the less possibility for Europe to fall into the abyss of fascism, as it did in the early 20th century.

The stronger these groups, the more likely the European People's Party (EPP) will not seek political alliances among the far-right groups.

Since the EPP will undoubtedly remain the strongest group, the elections are not about Europe becoming much better, but about not falling into the abyss again, Mladina says in the editorial headlined Above the Abyss.

Demokracija: A Stronger Border & Higher Pay for Police

STA, 23 May 2019 - Pointing out that police officers risk their lives while ensuring the country's security, the right-wing weekly Demokracija says in its latest editorial that they should be paid more for their efforts, including in strengthening the state and the EU's external Schengen border.

The weekly agrees with the Trade Union of Police Officers (SPS) and its president Kristjan Mlekuš about their take on the problematic situation at the Slovenian-Croatian border, saying that the union's reproval of the government is warranted due to the latter's inaction and lying about actively seeking new staff.

"Police officers are part of one of the most state-forming ministries... They should (like soldiers) be excluded from the public sector's pay system," says Jože Biščak, the editor-in-chief of the right-leaning weekly.

The commentary suggests the funds for their pay rise should be taken out of the amount allocated to NGOs, organisations which, according to the editorial, "would open borders and put citizens in danger" instead of protecting them.

"If they were allowed by the authorities, police officers would much rather be sent to the border and deter illegal migration than act as a fine collector with speed traps at straight road sections," says the editorial under the headline Life North of Kolpa, referring to the border river between Slovenia and Croatia.

Commenting on the state's refusal to strengthen the border security by sending more units and earmarking more funds, the weekly blames "the government's incompetence and incomprehensible empathy towards complete strangers" for the increasing amount of Arabs and Africans entering the country while Italy and Austria are closing its borders.

The EU elections are thus a way of giving one's support to parties which strive for security and preservation of national identities, tradition, culture and family values as well as "the advanced European civilisation", concludes the editorial.

All our posts in this series can be found here

17 May 2019, 19:59 PM

STA, 17 May 2019 - Slovenian police officers are systemically denying migrants the right to asylum and are illegally returning them to Croatia, according to a report by Info Kolpa, a civil initiative launched about a year ago in response to growing allegations by migrants that Slovenia was denying them the right to asylum. Police deny the accusations.

The initiative wanted to determine whether migrants who requested asylum in Slovenia were refouled to Croatia, where they were subjected to systemic physical and psychological abuse by the police.

To determine what was happening along the Schengen border, the initiative set up an SOS number to which migrants are able to report their names along with their intent to request asylum and their locations upon entering the country. The initiative then forwards the data to the police, the human rights ombudsman and Amnesty International.

The report also notes that there was a rapid drop in the number of asylum seekers in the span of a single month. In May 2018, the Črnomelj police station apprehended 379 migrants of whom 371 (98%) requested asylum. "In June, there was a drastic change in how procedures were conducted at the Črnomelj police station: out of 412 persons processed, only 13 requested asylum."

The report, compiled in cooperation with the Border Violence Monitoring NGO, says that this was proof that the police were covering up what was going on at police stations along the border, and "mass malversation in how asylum procedures are conducted by the Slovenian police".

"This radical change is in correlation with contentious instructions by Police Commissioner Simon Velički about returning migrants to the Croatian police ... dated to 25 May 2018."

The report lists several cases of migrants who sent their names and locations to Kolpa Info. It is not known what happened to many of them after their information was forwarded to the police.

Moreover, in many cases people were refouled back to Croatia and further south to Bosnia-Herzegovina, often being beaten by the Croatian police. Many report of having their money taken by the Croatian police, as well as cellphones and other possessions.

The report includes the story of a man whose shoes were taken away by the Croatian police in February and had to have his toes amputated as a result.

The initiative says that the stories of migrants paint a grave picture about the way Slovenian police operate when it comes to the treatment of migrants.

"The violations are not sporadic and they do not depend on individual police officers, they amount to systemic denial of the right to international protection, an order coming from the top of the police force, and with the knowledge of the top officials of the Interior Ministry."

The head of the border police, Peter Skerbiš, rejected the accusations saying the actions of the Slovenian police were professional and in line with the law. He said police did not deny anyone the right to international protection.

Skerbiš told the press today that these claims had been checked several times in the past by NGOs, the Human Rights Ombudsman and the UNHCR. No irregularities had been found, he said.

Police officers have received no instruction to push people back and the foreigners who express the intention to request asylum are transported to the asylum centre.

Only those who do not want to request for asylum are returned to Croatia after evidence is gathered that they entered Slovenia from there.

Regarding claims about Croatian police violence, Skerbiš said that Croatia is an EU member state and considered a safe country. "We have so far received no information or instruction from EU institutions that foreigners must not be sent to Croatia."

The initiative demands an immediate stop of what they say is collective refoulement of migrants on the basis of a bilateral border control agreement, immediate annulment of this agreement and the upholding of the right of international protection.

The initiative also demands civil oversight over police work when it comes to migrants. Moreover, it says the police must disclose contentious internal communication, while investigations must be launched against former commissioner Simon Velički, his successor Tatjana Bobnar, as well as former interior minister Vesna Györkös Žnidar and former state secretary Boštjan Šefic.

14 May 2019, 12:44 PM

STA, 13 May 2019 - Foreign Minister Miro Cerar proposed in Brussels on Monday to his Italian counterpart Enzo Moavero Milanesi joint police patrols on the border with Italy to prevent illegal migration. He said he thus wanted to show to Italy that Slovenia wanted to strengthen mutual trust.

Border controls within the Schengen zone are unacceptable for Slovenia, because they go against the European ideas of connectivity and freedom, so Slovenia thinks the issues of security and migration should be tackled together. Thus, border checks on the internal Schengen borders will not be necessary, the minister said.

According to him, the Italian foreign minister welcomed the initiative, which will now be presented to both countries' interior ministers, while police commissioners of both countries are expected to discuss it in a few days.

Cerar would like the joint police patrols to be set up as soon as possible, so as to send a clear signal to the "criminals who encourage the illegal migration".

The EU and its member states must strive to export stability and security or else they risk importing instability, Cerar said, noting that crucial factors were efficient control of the EU's external borders, cooperation and offering support to the countries where migrants are coming from.

Asked why Slovenia and Croatia did not set up joint police patrols, Cerar said that the Slovenian police had been cooperating with the Croatian authorities very well and that so far there had been no need for such a move.

Preventing illegal crossings of the border has become crucial, Cerar said, pointing to a recent abduction of a local in Bela Krajina by a group of migrants.

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